Her face was enough evidence – no need for recent reports describing the travesty of her situation – that she had been tortured for days by the Islamic Republic oppressive forces in the notorious IRGC Intelligence detention center in Evin prison. Her crime? She refused to bow down to a “hijab commander” on a bus in Tehran. Her condition? The regime is piling up fabricated charges against her to terrorize hijab critics and women’s rights activists. Everything reported on Sepideh Rashnou since July 16 by media outlets must not be taken at face value, but analyzed.
Saturday, July 16, 2022, a video clip went viral on Persian social media showing a “hijab commander” arguing with somebody on a bus in Tehran. She pulls out her phone, recording a video and threatening the subject of her anger by “I will show this video to IRGC!” Other women join in support of the lady who is being harassed by this “hijab commander” and throw her out of the bus.
Before July 16
Iranian women on social media started the No2Hijab campaign protesting the Islamic Republic’s recent increased pressure on women on the streets and arresting many for no reason but to restrict them even more than before. After Khamenei’s order to “increase population,” Iranian women have become targets of the regime incompetency. Screening tests during pregnancy got banned, and not only physicians were barred from ordering them, but officials began blaming healthcare professionals for number of abortions, not the poverty and horrible living conditions in Iran. Women are virtually forced to stay home most of the time as they are banned from cycling, bodybuilding, appearing in any and all advertising material, being separated from all men in parks, bowling and billiards salons.
The No2Hijab campaign was to begin on July 12. Islamic Republic officials and their online goons began threatening women. They clearly said hijab is one of the most important strongholds for the regime and “if it falls, the system will fall, too!” On the other hand, especially the “reformists” – to stay relevant and gain some brownie points from the IRGC/intelligence community of the regime – began laying the ground work for excusing possible arrests. Mehdi Karroubi, one of the “leaders of reformists” – completely aligned with the rest of the regime – said: “Nobody should object the hijab!” The regime even arrested family members of November 2019 victims at their monthly gathering the night before! Nahid Shirpisheh, Pouya Bakhtiari’s mom, is still in custody. Reportedly, she was transferred to Karaj prison and beaten there.
July 12 arrived and many videos circulated on social media. July 13, the first reports on multiple arrests were published, including Souri Babaei-Chegini, who had one of the sharpest messages to the regime in her video she published without hijab.
The incident in the BRT bus went viral, millions of visits across social media platforms and then Persian satellite TV. The woman in the video said: “I will send this video to the world to see!” Fars News, an IRGC-affiliated news agency, on July 17, announced the woman who was the target of the “hijab commander” was arrested the same day “before sunset” and reported the incident was from “a month ago!” A few hours later, they issued a correction, confirming the incident happened July 16, 8:42AM and repeated its claim: “She has been arrested in connection to an unveiling network who are connected to foreign enemies and Masih Alinejad!” However, the video was not published by Masih Alinejad for the first time, as she usually does with her logo and phone number on the clips.
Twitter users began their search to identify the “hijab commander!” In a few hours, she had a name, address, phone number, … and everything there is to know about her divorced parents, her IRGC connection through her father and brother, both Basij members, her living with her father-in-law and so on: Rayehe Rabiei became infamous overnight!
After July 17
Iran International, a Persian satellite TV headquartered in London, quoting an anonymous source, on July 18, announced the name of the lady being harassed and threatened by the “hijab commander”: Sepideh Rashnou! It repeated Fars News’ claim that she has been arrested but contrary to IRGC-media, asserted she was the only one. Meanwhile, Sepideh Rashnou was on Twitter a little after midnight on July 17 and not in custody, when Fars claimed.
Sepideh is a writer and poet. She was active on social media, twitting her poems and short pieces or quotes. She has rarely posted anything political. Sepideh even founded a “writing school!” She turned 27 in October and suffers from thalassemia. She liked to be called “Sepi” or “Sepid.”
The “people against people” crowd went full steam ahead. BBC Persian invited regime apologists to trumpet their hypothesis and bring the bus incident as their witness! At the same time, cyber army spread fake news about Sepideh, calling her a member of “Iran Communist Party”, by publishing a screenshot from a nonexistent article! Another group falsified screenshots from fake accounts saying Sepideh “is in Dubai,” “is not arrested,” “is hidden until everything blows over,” and many other scenarios to buy time.
A few days later, on July 27, Islamic Republic TV & Radio (IRIB) aired an “apology” session! A woman with blurred face sitting across from the “hijab commander”. In video, the unknown woman said she became physical with Rayehe and apologized! Rayehe, like Islamic Republic, played the victim. Media wrongfully reported the apologizing woman was Sepideh, especially because they had reported only 1 person was arrested!
August 4, HRANA reported Sepideh was tortured so severely that the Islamic Republic oppressive forces escorted her to Taleghani hospital due to internal bleeding after being hit in the abdomen repeatedly. She was then taken back to IRGC intelligence detention center in notorious Evin prison, against medical advice and paraded in front of IRIB cameras for 30 seconds. This sham show was aired on July 30 when tortured face of Sepideh provoked social media users’ wrath. The Ameneh-Sadat Zabihpour’s report included all fake screenshots, media interviews of apologists on BBC Persian,… to fabricate charges against her. In her 30-second appearance, she just said what she had already said on the bus: “I will send this to the world, not just Masih!”
Most recent reports indicate she’s been to Evin clinic and appeared to have injured legs with bandages on, which may have occurred during her arrest. Furthermore, some report she began her hunger strike the first days of her arrest. No current report on her strike.
IRGC intelligence follows through with the scenario to fabricate charges against Sepideh Rashnou to terrorize women’s rights activists or hijab critics and suppress them. Sepideh is neither the first nor would be the last woman to be “punished” for standing up to the barbaric Sharia laws of the regime.